I can never resist an unusual name and this interesting character, still has a commemoration service held every year, over 400 years since he was born. Caleb Lovejoy was baptised at St Nicholas’ Church in Guildford on May 8th 1603, the son of Phillip Lovejoy. He was an intelligent boy who was given a free education at the Royal Grammar School before being moved to Southwark by his parents at the age of 14.
In London, Caleb was very successful. He was a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies, which gave him the freedom of the City of London. He owned the Walnut Tree Inn and other property in Southwark and became a wealthy merchant who supplied wagons to Oliver Cromwell’s army, during the Civil War His support for the Parliamentary cause was further demonstrated when he ejected the King’s tenants in Walnut Tree Alley.
But Caleb Lovejoy is primarily remembered in Guildford, as a benefactor. In his will of 1676 he bequeathed property under lease in Southwark to form a charity for the benefit of the poor in Guildford. He appointed three Guardians as Trustees. Six pounds per annum was to be provided for, “teaching of poor people’s children their letters until they could read their Testament.” The teaching to be undertaken, “by some honest poor woman.” After 45 years four almshouses should be built in the parish of St Nicholas as accommodation for four poor persons of good character.
However it was not until 1839, after the sale of Caleb’s estate, that land was purchased in Bury Street Guildford to build the four almshouses. The eligible old people were required either to have been born in the parish or have lived there for 50 years. They were given an allowance and must wear the uniform of a blue home-made gown with a badge of red cloth bearing the letters CL. The houses were built as a low terrace of sandstone blocks with grey/brown brick dressing. Attractive wavy-edged bargeboards were put along the bottom of the roof.
Also in his last will and testament, Caleb directed that he should be buried in St Nicholas’ churchyard and that the priest should be paid for a yearly sermon in commemoration of Mr Lovejoy. There are two brass plates in the church; one giving details of Caleb Lovejoy’s legacy and his death and burial in February 1676 at the age of 74; the other bears the following verse which is said to have been composed by Caleb:
Caleb Lovejoy, here I lye, yet not I,
My body being dead
My soul is fled unto Eternitye
There to injoye that everlasting Bliss
Which Jesus Christ, my Lord
Who’s gon before, prepared hath for his;-
Wherefore my Body rest in hope till then
When he shall joyne thee to thy soul agen
And bring thee unto that most glorious vision
There to enjoye thy God in full Fruition.
N. Chadwick via www.geograph.org.uk
St Luke's Parish magazine
British History online
"Rambles Around Guildford" by W C Smith